Sevens :: Caitlin Rose – I Was Cruel

(Sevens, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, pays tribute to the art of the individual song.)

It's a hard lesson to realize what terrible things you're capable of doing. We like to think the best of ourselves, but there are relationships that send us into dark places within ourselves in word and deed. "I Was Cruel" from Caitlin Rose's second LP The Stand-In takes a classic country trope - the destructive relationship - and opens it up for examination so that the blacks and whites all become a lot greyer.

The best practitioners of alt-country in the past 25 years have taken the influence of country's golden age and given it a shot of post-modern lyrical examination. Where classic country's bad relationship songs would usually mull over how the narrator was treated wrong or how they were the one who just couldn't settle down or play nice, anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship knows that things are never as simple as that. "I would've warned you if I'd known," Rose sings as the chorus gently slides in, "but I never knew I was cruel / No, I never knew I was cruel / Baby 'til I..met you." While the first verse seems to place the blame at the feet of the silent partner ("You throw dirt in my face / then you push me over / push me over the line."), the chorus turns its aim inward and finds our narrator looking hard at him/herself. It's a sharp turn in a song packed with them that manages to make space for some tremendously classic spots in the music as well. The pedal steel and the key change at the end of the bridge are huge parts of what make this song sound as stellar as it does.

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